Numlock News: February 12, 2021 • Amsterdam, Fjord, Ghost Kitchen

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend! We’re off Monday in observation of Presidents’ Day. See you Tuesday!

Ghost Kitchens

Ghost kitchens are haunting popular food ordering apps. Essentially they are commercial kitchens popping up as one or more restaurants within an online ordering service despite having no actual physical presence beyond their online footprint. There are major advantages in terms of start-up costs, as a digital kitchen in an urban center can be opened for something like $50,000, only 5 percent of the average cost of opening a typical restaurant. This is because since they don’t actually have to serve customers in person, they can save a bunch of money on real estate, amenities and dine-in areas. Add in the fact that one kitchen can be many restaurants — a pizza shop, a wing joint, a Thai restaurant — and the advantages are considerable.

Adam Chandler, Marker

Dutch Money

In January, an average of €9.2 billion shares per day were traded in Amsterdam on the Euronext Amsterdam and CBOE Europe and Turquoise exchanges, up from just north of €2 billion worth of shares a day in December 2020. Also in January, trade volumes in London were €8.6 billion, an enormous €6.5 billion fall from December. Both Paris and Dublin also saw slight increases in their trade volumes, as seemingly overnight the financial capital of Europe crossed the English Channel on to the continent following the conclusion of the Brexit transition period.

Philip Stafford, Financial Times

Robo-HR

The percentage of HR managers who said their company uses predictive analytics algorithms in the course of hiring rose from 10 percent in 2016 to 39 percent in 2020. AI-based hiring is faster than human-based hiring, but researchers have found that these systems not only reflect the racial and gender biases of those who train them, but also entrench it and hide it behind math. As a result, companies now have to bring in algorithmic analysts to ensure that their tests don’t incidentally discriminate and violate the law.

Hilke Schellmann, MIT Technology Review

Flare

The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil industry, has taken the unexpected step of deferring applications of oil companies that want to flare off natural gas, a controversial and environmentally destructive action that pumps carbon dioxide and un-burned methane into the atmosphere. Since 2013, 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Permian Basin of Texas was flared, and during the fourth quarter of 2020, 1.6 percent of gas production was flared off, or 390 million cubic feet per day. Often this is for safety reasons, but more often it’s for financial reasons, as it’s cheaper to flare the gas than contain it or store it. A recent report from Rystad Energy found 40 percent of flaring could be avoided at no cost to oil companies, and the commission’s track record of approving pretty much every flaring shoved under their noses has now come under criticism. This is happening at the same time as the Texas Methane and Flaring Coalition says it intends to end market-based flaring.

Paul Takahashi, Houston Chronicle and Kevin Crowley and Rachel Adams-Head, Bloomberg

Boats

Hey, if you forgot that you have a boat in New York, the city would really love it if you could come and grab it. Citywide, there are as many as 600 abandoned boats along the 520 miles of shoreline in New York, and the city has overseen the removal of 350 boats in the past five years. It costs the city about $7,000 to remove and dispose of a discarded boat. Anyway, “you must come to New York, the kitchens are run by ghosts, the jobs are provided by robots and the rivers are full of free boats!” definitely sounds like something some immigrant ancestor of mine would’ve written back to their cousins in Ireland, and it’s good to know at least the city hasn’t lost its charms.

Hazel Sanchez, CBS New York

Fjords

On November 28, 2020, a huge landslide 200 kilometers northwest of Vancouver pushed 9 million cubic meters of debris into a glacial meltwater lake, causing an enormous wave downstream. This had some really bad ecological impacts — wiping out any salmon eggs in its path — but it also had a fascinating positive impact. In 2000, the deep water in Bute Inlet was 9.1 ℃. From 2013 to 2016, a marine heatwave in the north Pacific known as The Blob struck, bringing up the temperature of the deep water in Bute Inlet to 9.6 ℃ and causing serious environmental stress on the ecosystem. But after the landslide and subsequent wave, now the temperatures are back down to 9.1 ℃ in what’s poised to be a case study for the ages.

Nicola Jones, Hakai Magazine

Subway

A shocking new study found that the New York City subway is kind of gross. More specifically, researchers measured air quality in 71 underground stations during morning rush hours in Boston, Philly, D.C. and New York searching for particles at the PM2.5 level. Nationally, the determined safe daily level is 35 micrograms per cubic meter; D.C.’s Metro came in at 145 micrograms per cubic meter, while New York’s subway clocked in at 251 micrograms per cubic meter. Despite forging Gritty in the catacombs of the Wells Fargo Center, Philly apparently had the cleanest system, though it was still north of the limit. Incidentally, the Christopher Street station in New York that connects to the PATH train to New Jersey came in a 1,499 micrograms per cubic meter of pollution, which is “building demolition” level numbers, so I for one blame Jersey.

Oliver Milman, The Guardian

Last week in the Sunday edition, I spoke to Alex Silverman, a sports reporter at pollster Morning Consult. He appears pretty frequently in Numlock, here’s a recent appearance about pre-Super Bowl polling. We talked about the polling around the Super Bowl, the Olympics, legalized gambling and why Gen Z worries leagues. Alex can be found at Morning Consult and on Twitter, his work is really fascinating!

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